Quade Cooper axed, with Will Skelton to captain Wallabies at World Cup

Quade Cooper has missed out on Wallabies selection for the Rugby World Cup in France.

Quade Cooper has missed out on Wallabies selection for the Rugby World Cup in France. Photo: AAP

Eddie Jones has axed veteran playmaker Quade Cooper and named hulking lock Will Skelton captain in a radical Rugby World Cup squad with a heavy emphasis on youth.

The Wallabies boss sprang a number of surprises in his 33-man squad named on Thursday, no bigger bombshell than Cooper’s omission in favour of emerging star Carter Gordon and utility back Ben Donaldson steering the side around the park.

While veteran co-captain Michael Hooper was widely forecast to be left out after the champion flanker lost his race against time with his calf injury, few could have seen the axing of fellow senior statesman Cooper coming.

The 35-year-old, whose international career is now surely over, was Jones’ first-choice No.10 a month ago but has steadily dropped down the depth chart to the point he’s been left out altogether.

Cooper slotted a late penalty against New Zealand on the weekend to level the scores, although a subsequent fumble did allow the All Blacks possession they turned into match-winning points.

His absence has let Jones pick a third halfback, picking uncapped Western Force No.9 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa to back up Tate McDermott and Nic White.

Another uncapped talent, NSW speedster Max Jorgensen, has been picked to add some serious X-factor in the backline, previously selected for Jones’ April training camp squad before falling down the pecking order due to a knee injury.

Jones named Hooper and prop James Slipper as co-captains ahead of the Rugby Championship but he’s opted to shuffle his leadership plans, naming Skelton as skipper with McDermott, who led the Wallabies against the All Blacks in Dunedin, as his deputy.

Skelton will be the fifth different player to lead the Wallabies in little more than a year, after Hooper, Slipper, Allan Alaalatoa and McDermott have all had a go.

Alaalatoa (achilles) and Hooper (calf) are joined on the outer by gun centre Len Ikitau, who hasn’t been picked as he battles a shoulder injury.

But Jones has named injured prop Taniela Tupou (rib) and centre Samu Kerevi (hand), the latter likely to continue his pairing with Jordan Petaia after strong form since filling in for Ikitau.

A whopping 25 of the 33 players picked haven’t been to a World Cup before, with all nine locks and back-rowers yet to feature at the showpiece event.

They include ACT Brumbies youngster Tom Hooper after he paired nicely with fellow flanker Fraser McReight in Dunedin.

Winger Suliasi Vunivalu is one of the luckier players to be picked after a quiet year at club level and having lost his starting spot in the national team to Mark Nawaqanitawase.

The Wallabies have gathered in Darwin for a four-day camp, readying themselves for their final tune-up match against France on August 28.

Their opening World Cup match is against Georgia on September 10.


Forwards: Angus Bell, Pone Fa’amausili, Zane Nonggorr, Blake Schoupp, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Matt Faessler, David Porecki, Jordan Uelese, Richie Arnold, Nick Frost, Matt Philip, Will Skelton (capt), Langi Gleeson, Tom Hooper, Rob Leota, Fraser McReight, Rob Valetini.

Backs: Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Tate McDermott (vc), Nic White, Carter Gordon, Lalakai Foketi, Samu Kerevi, Izaia Perese, Jordan Petaia, Max Jorgensen, Andrew Kellaway, Marika Koroibete, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Suliasi Vunivalu, Ben Donaldson, Josh Kemeny.


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